ALBERT LEA — Byron resident Aaron Miller won a solid upset victory Saturday in Albert Lea by capturing the Republican endorsement for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District race after three rounds of balloting.
Miller overcame rival candidates Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth and state Rep. Mike Benson of Rochester during the district’s Republican Party convention in Albert lea.
Miller, a command sergeant major in the Army Reserves who works for the biotech firm rEVO Biologics, is now in line to face Democrat incumbent Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato in the general election. Hagedorn and Benson said they would not run in a primary. Walz is in his fourth term.
The district stretches from border to border across southern Minnesota.
Three dynamic votes
Winning the endorsement required a candidate to receive 60 percent of the votes from the 278 Republican district delegates, or 167 total votes.
The first round of balloting resulted in Hagedorn and Miller tying at 103 votes each. Benson trailed with 71 votes.
During the second round, Benson dropped to 51 votes while Hagedorn surged to 115 votes and Miller increased to 111 votes. One ballot was left blank.
Benson then took to the podium and announced his resignation from the race. He called on his fellow 1st District Republicans to unite behind whoever won the endorsement. The crowd of delegates erupted into a standing ovation.
After his speech, Benson admitted he privately told his supporters, particularly the massive voting block from Olmsted County, to back Miller. He said he supported Miller because he was a “fresh face” that stood strong on conservative principles.
Miller drew 155 votes, just 11 votes short of victory, in the third round, while Hagedorn earned 121 votes. Two ballots were not cast.
Hagedorn took to the podium and called for the convention to unify behind endorsing Miller. He urged people to take Miller’s case to the media and to commit to working toward the defeat of Walz.